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The Singularity is Here: Human Knowledge and the Coming Intelligence Explosion

Every person spends a little time each day thinking about the future. What meeting do I have to attend later today or perhaps what will I feed the kids for dinner are among the more common thought projections of this sort; in the greater scheme of things, where will I be five years from now and how much money will I be able to save before retirement are the sorts of ideas that might involve a bit more planning.

For some people, predicting where they think they’ll be a few decades from now comes easily, and may involve not only a great deal of careful planning, but also high hopes, goal setting, and great aspirations. This isn’t exactly the case for many in the computer science and information technology fields, however. In fact, much like the event horizon of relativity theory, lying in the not-too-distant future seems to be the promise of some singular event beyond which it is difficult to predict the future progression of human evolution, both technologically and biologically. Part of what makes this impending future so difficult to ascertain is the very likely presence of artificial intelligence, and the uncertainty that surrounds what a future world will be like where humans aren’t the most intelligent beings on the planet.

Such a hypothetical future world forms the essence of what many today call a “Singularity”, believed to await humankind at some point in the early part of this century. One of the staunchest advocates for this Singularity is futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil, who addresses the subject in his book The Singularity is Near. Like many others, Kurzweil believes that artificial intelligence in the future will be a deciding factor in the future progression of the human species. In fact, according to the official definition featured at the website of The Singularity Institute, the perceptual event in question is defined as, “the technological creation of smarter-than-human intelligence.” However, looking at things from a perspective that incorporates various potentials such as extraterrestrials and UFOs, there may already be smarter-than-human intelligence among us here on Earth.

Indeed, if we were to assume for the moment that certain unidentified flying objects do in fact represent extraterrestrial technology, many new factors must be taken into account. For instance, the rigors of space travel a biological organism must hypothetically sustain, especially if it were to somehow travel several hundreds of light years or more in order to reach our planet, are often cited as a reason the extraterrestrial hypothesis may be unlikely. However, Singularity theorists have suggested a future post-Singularity humanity may indeed not only live alongside smarter-than-human AI, but even merge with it; in essence, we would be human in such a future, but a different breed of human from that which exists today, enhanced and improved through the utilization of “machinery” represented by technology so advanced that it is virtually indistinguishable from biology.

Thus, our own fundamental biology will likely still exist under such circumstances, but will also be supplemented and improved by advanced nanotechnologies that will emerge in the coming decades. But bringing this back to the discussion of aliens and extraterrestrial intelligence, perhaps alien civilizations (having mastered technologies required for space travel that exceed our own) would likely have gone through a Singularity themselves, resulting in biologically-oriented, but technologically enhanced beings capable of far more than what a mere biological entity could muster… this would presumably include travel through space, just as well.

But getting even stranger with this thought process, if we were to remove the notion of extraterrestrials from the equation altogether, what if we were to pose the notion (if for nothing but the sake of theorizing) that a sort of Singularity–albeit a localized one–could have occurred already on our planet? This is a difficult notion to consider, since many argue it would be entirely unlikely, if not impossible, for something so remarkable and transformational to have occurred among only a select group, without the rest of the planet’s population being affected. However, what if some secretive organization (again, just tossing theories around here!) could have, for instance, utilized suppressed technology for the last several decades, some of which likely even would have resulted in reports of advanced aircraft we call UFOs?

It sounds like science fiction, and in truth, that’s almost precisely what it is I’m presenting here. But let’s not forget how many innovative ideas have come from the pages of science fiction, whether that be the future of space travel envisioned by Arthur C. Clark, the incredible future societies of Philip K. Dick, or the mind-numbing technological intelligence explosions (i.e. Singularity) of Vernor Vinge. That said, almost without a doubt there are a variety of “secret” innovations that occur annually, and due to factors like their economic impact on a global scale, many are kept secret for purposes of not derailing existing markets (this is especially the case with the oil industry). If any one group could have access to remarkable technologies the general public didn’t know about, they might also have benefited from them in ways the populace would not.

Sure, it sounds sketchy, but in general terms this outlines the possibility, at very least, regarding how a “localized” Singularity might even occur here on Earth… and if such were to ever be the case, how might people like you or I interpret things if we did manage to catch a fleeting glimpse of, for instance, strange objects or foreign-looking aircraft buzzing through our skies?

In essence, either of these hypothetical scenarios, each involving greater than present human intelligence, could also outline the way a post-Singularity intelligence might already be present on Earth. Thus, rather than being right around the corner, evidence of a technological Singularity expected within next several decades might already be visible, on occasion, in places like our skies. The “Singularity” is actually here, given such criteria, and the evidence for a vast and strange future wildly different from our own has been right here alongside us for quite some time already.

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  • The ‘global elite’ are more than just jet-setters with good plastic surgeons.  They have plans and powers beyond our imagination.  In the U.S., for example, the wealthiest 400 people control about as much wealth as the least wealthy 100 million people.  That’s enough financial separation to be living in a completely different world.

  • Glorfindel

    I am an avid reader of anything Ray Kurzweil has written, but I am not a believer in everything he says.

    For example in his books he presents a future were the genetic, nanotechnology and robotics revolutions will be set all things a right.  Unfortunately if we have learnt only one thing about human nature (and we have more experience in knowing human nature then the future) then whatever changes occur in the future then the technology will help a select few and only them, the rest of the peoples of the Earth will have to make do with a polluted and crowded Earthspace.

    Also he doesn’t count into his futurism the idea of ‘black swans’ things which would start a paradigm shift in technology or the way we think, who would have thought that we would have got a semi-conductor revolution from the idea from Quantum Mechanics, or that Mobiles phones and computing would become ubiquitous giving rise to the internet and so on and so forth.

    I think with the robotics/AI issues we have too many pie in the sky predictions, what we need is lots of ‘dumb’ robots doing stuff for us – now it could be argued that they are already doing it; military drones, automotive robot assembly lines and the like however they do seem to predominate in the first world and as I said before, the singularity seems to be something that’ll happen to the rich, powerful elites whilst the rest of the has to look on.

  • Glorfindel

    Oh I forget to add about intelligence.  There aren’t different levels of intelligence/sentience because you either are or your not a sentient creature for example a dog is smart, a dolphin is smarter but you aren’t likely to have a conversation with either of them are you? Because they aren’t sentient beings.  The idea that any machine we make would be many orders of magnitude smarter (more sentient) then us is nonsense I am afraid, it will either be as smart as us (i.e. fully sentient) or not.

    Everything that is comprehensible by any intelligence out there in the universe, (or creatures yet to be made by us) should be comprehensible by us – it may take a little longer but there is no reason why things that one group of intelligent creatures can comprehend shouldn’t be comprehensible by another?

  • Jeff Davis

    What if singularity actually happened roughly 15-20,000 years ago via one of the several technologically advanced civilizations that has existed here on Earth prior to this, our own homo sapien’s age of technology? To me, this makes a heck of a lot more sense than taking the future human time travel route or the near future development of singularity wherein we are all posits within an existing matrix.

    Imagine an aquatic based form of advanced intelligent life that developed from the Earth’s oceans millions of years ago. Couldn’t this notion of achievable singularity be attributed to them whereby they immensely increased their extended mobility as a habitual species, as well as their intelligence,  to create highly sophisticated plasma based life forms that they themselves merged with? Are these the UFOs that we see so frequently in our skies?

    Another possibility that I have been toying with for several months is what I refer to as sentient evolution. You know, it’s more than possible that we have the vast majority of our inboard biological hardware right now. What if this elite (which I completely believe in, BTW) took a much different route than imagined while attempting to traverse the road to singularity wherein they developed means to excite and manipulate human DNA? This being to achieve such an effect via artificially stimulated evolution without the incorporation of non organic or quasi organic technologies. Maybe the results of singularity are not so much exponentially “intelligence” based as they are sentience based perceptual revelations that remove our current limitations within our spacetime itself. How would you like to travel at the speed of thought?

    I agree with you 100% Micah. The supposition that singularity has already occurred, in one way or another, is most logical. 

  • featherknife

    For instance… the interactions between dolphins and humans? While we know that dolphins use language among themselves, and that they are extremely intelligent animals, their environment and physiology makes human/dolphin communication difficult in the extreme. Imagine the problems with an entity so unlike us as a machine would certainly be.
    It may be as easy for an A.I. entity to dismiss us as not “fully sentient” as it is for you to dismiss cetaceans in the same manner.

  • craig cadolowitz

    john lilly might disagree with you cetacean argument